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Legal news from Sunday, June 28, 2009




Ireland passes civil partnership bill extending rights to same-sex couples
Tere Miller-Sporrer on June 28, 2009 3:02 PM ET

[JURIST] The Department of Justice in Ireland published a Civil Partnership Bill [text, PDF; explanatory memorandum text, PDF] on Sunday, extending certain rights to same-sex couples. The bill legally recognizes cohabiting but unmarried couples while stopping short of granting such couples full marital rights. The bill provides for numerous rights such as conveyance of a home. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Dermot Ahern T.D., observed, "[i]t provides legal protection for cohabiting couples and is an important step, particularly for same-sex couples, whose relationships have not previously been given legal recognition by the State." Same-sex partnerships cannot be recognized as marriages because of Section 41.1.1 of the Irish Constitution [text, PDF].

Ireland legalized homosexuality in 1993 and joins a growing contingent of countries and US States that recognize same-sex partnerships as either full marriage or civil unions/partnerships. Although a Greek court invalidated in May the first same-sex marriages performed in country, the Swedish parliament passed a same-sex marriage law in April [JURIST reports]. In December, Hungary struck down [JURIST report] a same-sex partnership law by alleging that it would diminish the importance of marriage. In November, the Australian Senate approved [JURIST report] a same-sex equal rights law but did not grant the right to marry.






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Honduras president removed from country in military coup after court order
Ximena Marinero on June 28, 2009 11:55 AM ET

[JURIST] Honduran President Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile] was detained and escorted from the presidential home by members of the Honduran military and transported to the airport in the early hours of Sunday morning, the scheduled day for a nationwide referendum on constitutional reform. Military leaders said they were following a judicial order [La Prensa report, in Spanish] to remove Zelaya for breaking the law in carrying out the referendum despite a Honduran Supreme Court ruling against it. The military also indicated that the judicial order instructed them to gather all the referendum ballots. Costa Rican authorities have confirmed [El Pais report, in Spanish] that Zelaya arrived in San Jose on Sunday morning, and will be requesting political asylum. In an interview [RPP report, in Spanish] with South American media, Zelaya decried the actions of the military forces and alleged that his removal was done in a violent manner. Absent the executive, the law dictates that the head of the legislative branch is in command, and if unavailable then the the head of the judiciary assumes the charge. There are unofficial reports [TeleSur video, in Spanish] that head of the Honduran legislature Roberto Micheletti, one of the main opponents to the referendum and constitutional reform, has been sworn in as provisional president of Honduras. Thousands of people in Tegucigalpa have surrounded the presidential home in protest of Zelaya's removal, despite official calls from the government for the population to remain at home. US President Barack Obama has called [Washington Post report] for Hondurans to respect democratic processes, while the Organization of American States has also asked [press release] Hondurans to respect and follow the rule of law. The European Union has condemned [AP report] the actions of the military in removing Zelaya.

Last week, Zelaya rejected [JURIST report] a Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] decision that called for the reinstatement of a military general whom Zelaya fired Wednesday. Zelaya's decision came amidst a controversy over a referendum on constitutional change [La Tribuna report, in Spanish] scheduled for Sunday at which the president hoped to gain supporters for drafting a new constitution. Although Zelaya claims that the constitution should be changed because it currently favors the rich and elite, opponents maintain that the purpose of the change is to allow him to stay in power. Absent a change allowing him to run for re-election, Zelaya's term would end in 2010. In March, Zelaya announced [JURIST report] that he would conduct a poll to determine the public receptiveness to the referendum.






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House passes climate bill as Obama calls on Senate to follow suit
Ximena Marinero on June 28, 2009 10:17 AM ET

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] on Friday passed a climate bill [HR 2454 materials] that focuses on clean energy. In his weekly address [video; transcript] Friday evening, US President Barack Obama [official profile] praised the bill's passage in the House and encouraged the Senate [official website] to follow suit. Obama spoke of the energy bill in terms of economic leadership and job creation, and said the bill addressed past concerns over real costs to consumers in affordable terms. Obama characterized the legislation as one that:


will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy. That will lead to the creation of new businesses and entire new industries. And that will lead to American jobs that pay well and cannot be outsourced. I have often talked about the need to build a new foundation for economic growth so that we do not return to the endless cycle of bubble and bust that led us to this recession.

The "American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009" passed on Friday in the House on a narrow 219-212 vote, and will need 60 votes in the Senate to become law. Senators from mid-western states have expressed reluctance based on fear that the bill will disproportionately affect their local economies. The bill calls for a reduction in greenhouse emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and by 80 percent by 2050 by establishing a cap-and-trade system. The bill establishes for the first time limits on greenhouse gases that will become progressively stricter, providing an incentive for a transition to green energy sources ranging from "wind, solar, and geothermal power to safer nuclear energy and cleaner coal."

The Obama administration has taken on several other environmental initiatives. In May, the administration announced plans [press release; JURIST report] for national fuel efficiency requirements. The policy announcement also carefully addressed consumer fears of increased costs for vehicles, while garnering support from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. An Environmental Protection Agency [official website] report in April concluded [report, PDF; JURIST report] that atmospheric greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare, setting the stage for government regulation for the first time. In March, the US Special Envoy on Climate Change announced [JURIST report] at a UN Convention on climate change that the US is committed [video] to the creation of an international treaty designed to combat global warming, but that such efforts would only succeed if they were economically feasible.





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